What is ancestral trauma?

Ancestral trauma, also known as generational or family trauma, is rooted in the notion that the emotional scars and experiences of our ancestors can reverberate through the generations, impacting the psychological and emotional landscapes of their descendants.


This concept has gained traction due to findings in the field of epigenetics, which suggests that our experiences can influence our genes and these modifications can then be inherited by our offspring.

At its core, ancestral trauma embodies the idea that unresolved traumas, pain, and suffering from past generations can influence the mental and emotional well-being of individuals today. To better understand this phenomenon, let's explore its effects and how it can manifest.

The effects of ancestral trauma

1. Unexplained emotional turmoil

Many individuals find themselves wrestling with persistent anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges without an apparent cause. Ancestral trauma suggests that these emotions might be connected to the unresolved emotional pain of past generations.

2. Repetitive patterns and behaviours

Ancestral trauma can give rise to recurring patterns of behaviour, choices, and even thoughts. For example, if your ancestors faced significant financial hardships, you may experience an unrelenting worry about money, even in times of financial stability.

3. Relationship challenges

The impact of ancestral trauma can extend to one's ability to form and maintain healthy relationships. Patterns of strained or dysfunctional relationships within a family's history may be unconsciously replicated in personal partnerships.

Healing ancestral trauma

Healing ancestral trauma can be a transformative journey, and it begins with understanding and acknowledging the presence of this generational burden.

Uncover your family history

The first step in healing ancestral trauma is to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Dive into your family history and seek to understand the experiences, challenges, and traumas that your ancestors may have faced. This exploration can be emotionally challenging but is crucial for gaining insight into potential sources of ancestral trauma.

Embrace self-awareness 

This is a powerful tool for identifying and addressing ancestral trauma. Practices like mindfulness and self-reflection can help you become more in tune with your own emotions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This self-awareness can reveal how ancestral trauma may be affecting your life.

Seek professional help

The guidance of a qualified therapist or counsellor can be invaluable on the journey to healing ancestral trauma. Trauma-informed therapy approaches, in particular, can help individuals work through the effects of generational wounds. A therapist can provide a safe space for exploration, offer coping strategies, and guide you towards resolution.

Generational healing work

Engage in generational healing work, which can involve rituals, ceremonies, or practices aimed at releasing and resolving ancestral trauma. This can be a profoundly spiritual or therapeutic experience that helps you connect with your ancestors and begin the process of healing.

Ancestral trauma is a captivating and complex aspect of mental health that merits exploration. By acknowledging its potential influence and seeking professional guidance, individuals can begin the journey to healing and self-discovery. As we've seen, the effects of ancestral trauma can manifest in various ways, but they need not define your life.

By taking the first step towards understanding and healing ancestral trauma, you can pave the way for a brighter and more harmonious future, not only for yourself but for the generations that follow. The journey to healing ancestral trauma is a profound one, and it begins with your commitment to addressing and resolving the generational burdens that have shaped your life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9
Written by Natasha Kelly, BA (Hons) MBACP
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9

Natasha is a counsellor based in London and online. Her passion lies in helping individuals build meaningful connections and foster strong rapport. With a deep understanding of human emotions and interpersonal dynamics, she has worked as a primary school teacher and as a freelance writer on mental health.

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Trauma

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals